Make No Mistake: Drugs and Candidates

Make No Mistake: Drugs and Candidates
Posted by FoM on March 10, 2000 at 00:14:36 PT
By Marjorie Williams
Source: Washington Post
"I think baby boomers ought to say to their kids, 'I've learned from mistakes I may or may not have made and I'd like to share some wisdom,' " George W. Bush said last summer. Now if he can actually sell this line to his teenage daughters, he's a better politician than I've given him credit for. 
But he has successfully sold it to the rest of us, avoiding further prying into whether, when and how often his own youthful mistakes might have included the use of illegal drugs. Since then it has been fashionable, especially among reporters, to shrug and dismiss the entire issue of candidates' drug use as a distant artifact of the settled past. When Vice President Gore was recently accused, in a new biography by Newsweek correspondent Bill Turque, of using marijuana as a young man far more habitually than he had admitted, the allegation commanded little coverage. The public no longer has an appetite for "character cop" journalism, we tell each other. And besides, aren't we talking about minor peccadilloes? And don't a lot of us live in glass houses ourselves, where college-era drug use is concerned? There's just one problem with this dismissive instinct: It concerns a class of possible crime for which the U.S. government and many states now routinely jail their citizens, with the hearty approval of both candidates.Welcome to the first all-boomer presidential contest. Now that both parties have essentially settled their nomination battles, we are left to face what it means to have, as presidential choices, two men who appear to have predictably complicated pasts in the area of drug use. Try as we might to deny that it matters, the hypocrisy of both campaigns is something for which we may ultimately pay a heavy price. I don't care much, personally, about either man's past use of drugs: If the allegations about Gore, for example, are true, they mark his history as similar to my own. But I do care about having a president who has both the will and the political running room to begin a radical shift in our entire approach to drug control. And a boomer president laboring to finesse the gap between his own history and the climate of hysteria that surrounds our drug policy is probably the last person who can deliver the change we need.Our laws, policies and social attitudes toward drugs today are a mass of contradiction and willed ignorance. Despite ample evidence that our real problem--the locus of almost all the violence, crime and mortality associated with drugs--concerns hard-core addicts who use drugs such as cocaine and heroin, we act and talk as though the biggest menace we face is pot-smoking by middle-class teenagers. Despite two decades of proof that interdiction and tough law-enforcement will do nothing to stop the sale or use of drugs, our prison populations are skyrocketing. Mandatory minimum sentences have consigned to prison, without parole, great numbers of low-level dealers and even users, forcing the release of violent offenders for whom there is no longer room. And our drug war compromises both the ideals and the workings of our criminal justice system, which metes out far harsher treatment to black than to white drug defendants.There was a brief time when we addressed drugs as the public-health concern they really are. As detailed in Michael Massing's wonderful history of the war on drugs, "The Fix," the Nixon administration was the unlikely high-water mark of sane drug-control strategy, for it focused the government's efforts overwhelmingly on treatment. But in the years since, we have flipped our spending priorities; now only a third of our efforts go to treatment and prevention, the rest to interdiction and law enforcement. Ever since the Reagan administration, we have told drug addicts to pull themselves together, while systematically reducing the resources available to help them do it.A sane national conversation about drugs would incorporate the best ideas of the "harm reduction" movement (needle exchange programs, the insight that we will never eradicate the human impulse to self-medicate); a hard-headed, realistic emphasis on treatment programs that have proven their effectiveness; and a nuanced message to teenagers that marijuana is a lesser but still real danger to their young bodies and lives.But voters who don't bear the burdens of the war on drugs--that is to say, middle- and upper-middle-class Americans--don't seem very eager to have this conversation. Boomers want to think of drugs as something that belongs to the past, something that was okay for us, at our unique cultural moment, but that is now assigned by stern social consensus to a place beyond the pale, where our kids can't get at it. And so we allow our leaders their hypocrisies, and they in turn let us nurture our own.Next time you feel the impulse to wave this issue away, try an exercise: Imagine, if you will, a female candidate for national office. She is antiabortion. Reporters learn that when she was 27, she had an abortion herself. What would they do?They would crucify her, for starters. They sure wouldn't let her describe it as a mistake she may or may not have made.By Marjorie WilliamsFriday, March 10, 2000; Page A21  2000 The Washington Post Company Related Articles:Apart from Personal Use, a Key Issue Stays Away Elephant in the Room - Three Part Article's Hay Day Drug Group Asks Bush To Pardon Offenders Interview with Michael Massing Part 1 & 2
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on March 11, 2000 at 05:53:52 PT:
Arkansas, the Prez, and the CIA
Freedom, many thanks for posting that link; this is something that has been VERY briefly touched upon by the Kerry Commission and several other investigative bodies glancingly touched upon, but for some reason backed away from. I invite anyone who has the time to read several books which might clear up some vexing questions about intelligence agencies and the illicit drug trade.The first is: "The Politics of Heroin in South East Asia" by Professor Alfred McCoy. This guy found out that the CIA, during the Vietnam War, in order to 'win the hearts and minds' of the local anti-Communist guerillas, actively participated in their very lucrative industry...opium production. And it seems the 'Company' is still at it.Then read: COMPROMISED; Clinton, Bush & the CIA by Terry Reed. This guy was the pilot hired by Ollie North to train Nicaraguan Contra pilots at Mena, Arkansas (which was a major base) to ferry arms to advance bases in Costa Rica and Honduras... not to mention Nicaraguan airspace (One plane got shot down, and the survivor, one Eugene Hassenfuss, spilled the beans). After the Boland Ammendment cut off fund for lethal aid (how's that for an oxymoron?)for the Contras, they had to pay for the arms somehow. So the planes went down loaded with guns... and came back full of 'white powder'. And then-Governor Clinton apparently knew all about it.Those kids were probably unlucky enough to witness a 'black op' in action and were summarily dealt with.I don't ask anyone to believe me, just do your own research. You might be surprised at what your government does with your tax money... and whose pockets it winds up filling.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 10, 2000 at 12:39:48 PT
Carry On!
Hi Everyone! Thanks for the interesting reading and links. You are all so intelligent. That's nice!Peace, FoM!
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Comment #3 posted by Freedom on March 10, 2000 at 11:26:38 PT
Keep this in mind too. do not know if I believe it, yet, but I am keeping an open mind. 
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on March 10, 2000 at 10:09:05 PT:
Thank you, Observer
You provided an answer to something that has been bugging me for sometime. But as usual, it leads to other questions.As someone who was trained as a sociologist in college (but never practiced; like most Liberal Arts grads, my major and fifty cents got me a cup of coffee) I've long been mystified by the need for some who were politically active during the 60's to do the breast-beating Mea Culpa routine in order to be 'vetted' by the Powers-That-Be. Considering that it was the institutions of those same Powers that caused so much political dissension in this country, not to mention tragedy, it should be *they* who are ones who apologize for what they did. Thirty years from now, will the War on Drugs be remembered in the same way the McCarthy Hearings, or the Hollywood Blacklisting, or the FBI's COINTELPRO are now?In Robert McNamara's book about his involvement in the strategic planning of our early involvement in Vietnam, he admits that he was terribly wrong and he tearfully apologized on TV to all those families of Viet Vets who died in combat. But while he was Secretary of Defense, he cheerfully supported jailing dissenters. Like the Drug Warriors, he was blinded by his own arrogance. Only later did he admit how wrong he was... after 58,000 names of dead soldiers wound up on a black granite wall in DC. Will we erect a memorial to all those lives ruined by the DrugWarriors' quest for a DrugFree America? It would have to be gigantic to hold all the names.
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Comment #1 posted by observer on March 10, 2000 at 08:59:35 PT
Confess They Were Possessed by the Devil
> "I think baby boomers ought to say to their kids, 'I've learned from mistakes I may or may not have made and I'd like to share some wisdom,' " George W. Bush said ...[from "The New Temperance"]As in the ritualized hearings of the 1950s, mostmembers of the 1960s generation either admit guiltand purge themselves of sin or minimize their pastguilt ("I didn't inhale") and promise future cleanliving. To some extent, liberals and former leftistshave been forced, far more than conservatives andmoderate politicians born before the baby boom, toactively repudiate the 1960s. And like many liberalsin the late 1940s and 1950s who dissociatedthemselves from communism, they have, for the mostpart, happily obliged. Some sociologists studying thedrug war, for example, have observed that, in theelection campaigns of 1986 and 1988, liberalDemocrats hammered home the attack on drugs far morethan Republicans did, and charged government leaderswith being "soft on drugs."  The reason that Bill and Hillary Clinton, Gary Hart, George McGovern, Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, and other leaders or public figures must constantly answer McCarthyite questions about the 1960s, and reveal their views on issues like drugs and sex, is that their opinions on these issues and their distance from the tradition of the 1960s are considered a measure of their respectability and readiness to accept political, corporate, and civic leadership. Conversely, there is little reason to question the Bob Doles and Dan Quayles whose loyalty to dominant norms has never been in doubt. But among those who have had any association with the dreaded "60s," only a repudiation of both the politics and the culture of the times is deemed acceptable by the media and political elites as a measure of their potential to serve as responsible leaders.  Novelist Sol Yurick captures the sense of this constant need to repress the 1960s: "[T]he 60s, like some compulsive recurrent nightmare[,] still persists in the consciousness of the ruling elites. They mustexorcise and reexorcise it, demand acts ofcontrition, to ask of its adherents that they confessthat they were possessed by the devil.... We areasked to admit, once and for all, . . . [that we]were wrong, to make penance and obeisance, tohypostatize those sins into those devils now ontrial."The New Temperance: The American Obsession with Sin and Vice,  by David Wagner. Westview Press, Boulder,Colorado, 1997. ISBN 0-8133-2568-4 (hc). excerpt from:Holy WarsA review of David Wagner's The New Temperance by Peter Websterreview:
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